Parental Leave – Uncharted territory

It has been a while, for (hopefully) obvious reasons; the arrival of a little one in your life means that everything you knew until then is thrown in the air and rearranges itself as it lands in a heap by your feet.

We have had the Urban Wild Boy (UWB) now since the end of February and it has been a lot of fun! The first three weeks we had together as a family to help him (and us) settle in to this new situation, which was great. After this, because we do like bacon on our bread, I had to go back to work and make some money whilst the Urban Wild Woman stayed at home with the boy. She was entitled to 18 weeks of fully paid Parental Leave, so the choice was easy; she took the full 18 weeks.

After the 18 weeks were up, at the end of June, it was my turn. I had spoken at work that I wanted to do the same, so take 18 weeks off to balance things out, but they asked if it would be alright if I took 26 weeks. This meant that it would be a lot easier to find cover for the time I am away in the form of a secondment. Given the fact that they asked me to have 8 extra weeks off and that we had saved up enough for any period of time that we would be on Statutory Parental Pay (aka. “beer money”), the choice was easy, I took the 26 weeks.

This meant that I am now at home with the boy and won’t have to go back to work until the beginning of 2017! It seems unreal, a period that long without work but with money in the bank but at the same time very exciting to be given this opportunity.

We are in week 4 now (as far as I can tell, they all blur together) and things are going great. We had a couple of days in the beginning of getting used to each other and getting used to the routine of feeding, sleeping and playing but now everything seems settled for the moment.

Now the dust has settled and we have survived the first mini-heatwave (poor little boy) and teeth have come through, summer seems to finally have arrived and calm will set in. The problem now is that a lot of the services and playgroups and swimming etc. break up for a couple of weeks, so I will have to get creative and find us things to do. This will probably involve a lot of walks outdoors in the carrier and gardening, but I will also have to get in touch with lots of people for play-dates and a change of scenery for the UWB. There is a gym session for babies (I presume more for parents than for the children) that does run over the summer which I am keen to explore, as well as checking out the local swimming pools for a nice break from the monotony of home life.

If anybody has some good ideas for Dads and babies to do for 6 months, I am open to anything, please let me know in the Comments section below.

I will do another post on the progress of the Fostering to Adopt process shortly (I hope) as that is another story altogether, this one is just a quick update and a sign of life.

The Urban Wild Baby

He is here at last, we have a little boy in the house!

About two and a half years ago the UWM household decided it might be nice to start our own little family. We looked at the different options and decided upon adoption; there are plenty of children waiting for parents, we didn’t feel the need to propagate our own DNA so that’s what we did.

After a few hiccups and frustrations with the various adoption services along the way, we now finally have a child. When we started, people talked about “fostering to adopt” as a new way of adopting, but nobody really knew anything about it. It was recommended for people that were desperate to have a baby but did involve some potential issues. 

The idea is that the baby comes to you on a fostering basis first and, while the legal position is being sorted out, you can start caring for him or her, avoiding the need for additional moves and transitions. After everything is sorted, the placement changes into an adoption placement. This permanence is thought to be highly beneficial for a child, because it is only moved once instead of to a foster carer first and only to the so-called “forever family”after the placement order comes through for adoption. Sounds great, but this does mean that during the fostering period there are chances that the birth family sorts themselves out which might mean the baby goes back to them. As a foster carer, you are also expected to quit your job and you would have to facilitate contact between the child and its birth family in this period. 

All this meant that initially we agreed that, even though we’d like a child as young as possible, fostering to adopt was not necessarily right for us so we went into the process for straightforward adoption. We got approved as adopters in April last year and started looking for children straight away. And then nothing…either no suitable children or, even worse, suitable children but not for us due to location or other requirements.

But, in September we had a visit from our social worker, telling us about this newborn baby that they were looking to place and would we be up for being dually approved, so that we could foster to adopt? In April last year legislation had changed, making the process of fostering to adopt equal to normal adoption and a lot easier, so we said yes, of course! I mean, what are the chances of having a newborn baby? So we fast-tracked the approval process for foster carers and got approved in November. Unfortunately, by this time he had already been moved into foster care so we wouldn’t be the first and only move, but hey, we could live with that and I’m sure he won’t remember! 

After the (un)necessary delays, he finally came to us this week, five and a half months old and a dream of a little boy! 

We are very happy with him and he seems quite content with us, but the transition is total; from drinking, going out when we wanted to, doing what we want to do when we want it to being utterly and completely focused on him and his needs. Feeding him when needed, rocking him to sleep, going for walks, listening to him breathing and coughing in the cot next to us, worrying something is wrong or will go wrong, our lives have changed dramatically. I know this is just a period of transition for the getting used to each other and establishing new routines. Pretty soon it will become normal and the worries will subside (a bit) and we can get on with whatever remains of our lives, but for the moment it is all-absorbing. I have got three weeks off work so we can form together as a family properly which is great. At least we have each other for help, advice and relief for three weeks, before I go back to work. 

It is strange though, sitting at home, trying to figure out what to do. The house has probably never been this tidy, we are on top of the washing and the dishes. Yes, there is a lot of extra stuff that comes with a baby but it doesn’t mean the house has to become a tip, especially if the two of us are at home together.

So for now, slightly weirded out but very happy and I will report back soon with progress!